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Monday Memo: What If Radio…?

| January 13, 2020

By Holland Cooke


LAS VEGAS — IOU my annual TALKERS report from CES, which we are admonished NOT to call “the Consumer Electronics Show,” for reasons that are instructive to radio.

As technology consumption changed, what had been “The Consumer Electronics Association” changed its name to “Consumer Technology Association;” thus their concern about this event being misconstrued as a gadget show.

Sure, there were acres of earbuds and virtual reality goggles at CES2020.  We were ducking drones and seeing smartphones that fold and TV screens that roll-up.  A Seattle-based company called Picnic showed-off a robot that can produce up to 300 12-inch personalized pizzas per hour.

But – as broadcasters must – CTA now takes a wider angle shot.  What if radio flexed our powerful incumbency to do more than…radio?

“The only certainty is disruption.”

CTA CEO-for-life Gary Shapiro calls the pace of change “unlike everything we’ve seen before;” and super-opportune; despite human nature to resist change.  His membership used to be companies that sold objects that came in boxes — VCRs.  Amazon and Google and Uber aren’t objects.  AM/FM “transmitter” is to audio what “VCR” is to consumer technology.

Eluding obsolescence is not a radio industry conundrum.  No matter where our listeners work, it is no longer business-as-usual. Smart stations program accordingly, and earn a reputation for arming listeners with what my longtime associate Mike McVay calls “survival information,” and otherwise adapting to their changing routines and content consumption preferences.  The Central Casting Morning Zoo is an anachronism.  What if radio was more nimble and in-tune-with contemporary challenges and preferences?

Rather than resisting disruption, we should monetize it; and another hundred-year-old industry is thriving by doing just that.

Think “Experience.”

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian explained how his company did what radio used to do: research.  They had a bunch of passengers wear Fitbits, and monitored their blood pressure, noting changes during tough weather, traffic to the airport and parking there, boarding with carry-on bags, and other travel stresses. Resulting tech initiatives are all about personalization. Remember that word.

Soon you can have your bags picked up at home, and sent directly to your destination hotel. And the Fly Delta app might tell you “Due to traffic, we’d like to order you a Lyft.”  Lyft is a Delta corporate partner, they’re both in the transportation business.  What if radio apps could be as useful?  And what if radio forged partnerships like the Delta/Lyft relationship?   Listeners will bond with a concierge who knows their pain.

When I say “technology,” you think “Ivanka Trump?”

Shapiro’s on-stage chat with the First Daughter and White House Advisor mesmerized a mammoth ballroom SRO crowd.  Less bot-like than you might be expecting, she demonstrated a grasp of policy detail that is as informed as her father often sounds uninformed.  And, at times, what she advocates sounded like a Bill Clinton speech.

Invanka Trump declared that “Innovation is a net job producer.”  She does NOT think 4-year college is the key; and she advocates apprenticeships and “re-skilling,” and about enabling the disabled with robotic arms and other technology, and re-integrating ex-cons into the workforce.  What if radio – even as HR-challenged as recent bloodletting leaves stations – re-thought who populates the content conveyor belt?

Tip: Bring a camera.

In addition to covering CES for TALKERS, I fed daily radio reports that aired on 1000+ plus stations.  You can hear them at Holland  And you can see what else I accomplished last week in Las Vegas at here.

Now that I’m doing a TV show, my CES routine is changed, and it’s an eye-opener.  With two producers and two videographers in-tow, feeding RT America newscasts and daily business show and my weekly show, we were received differently than the unobtrusive way I’ve been able to lurk CES in previous years, largely capturing what I need on iPhone.  When people see a video shoot, they lean-in.

I’m jazzed to collaborate with client stations that – familiar HC lore — “Use broadcast shortform to drive traffic to digital shortform.”  Translation: On-air 60-second audio (what we call “spots”) invites those-interested to see/read/hear more, on station or advertisers’ web sites and/or YouTube and/or social media.  In today’s on-demand pick-N-choose culture, these platforms are no longer simply an adjunct to what’s feeding the transmitter.

So bring the video camera, and look like a someone.  Handsome logo’d apparel, shoe shine…look the opposite of the pizza-wolfing T-shirt + jeans night time DJ.  It all adds up.

What if radio exploited its bond with the listeners who have a lifelong AM/FM habit (the biggest retail spenders, despite the myth of 25-54), to invite-them-elsewhere where we/our partners’/advertisers’ content speaks to their needs and wants?

Apologies for that last sentence sounding like the kind of distilled Mission Statement consultants preach.  Occupational hazard.

Holland Cooke is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet; and Talkers weekly columnist.  He hosts “The Big Picture” TV show on RT America.  Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke.

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Category: Advice